The Derivation of Wh-Questions in Najrani Arabic

Saud A. Mushait


The study explores the derivation of wh-questions in Najrani Arabic and attempts to answer the following questions: (i) Can wh-questions in Najrani Arabic be derived in VSO or SVO or both?, and (ii) How can Najrani Arabic wh-questions be accounted for within Chomsky’s (2001,2005, 2013,2015 ) Phase approach? The objective of the study is to present a unified analysis of the derivation of wh-questions in Najrani Arabic and show the interaction between Najrani Arabic data and Chomsky’s Phase framework. It has been shown that Najrani Arabic allows the derivation of wh-questions from the argument and non-argument positions in VSO word order. Given this, we assume that VSO is the unmarked order for the derivation of wh-questions in Najrani Arabic. In VSO, the subject DP does not raise to Spec-TP because the head T does not have the EPP feature: the latter attracts movement of the former. The verb raises to the head T of TP, while the subject DP remains in-situ in Spec-vP. Moreover, in Najrani Arabic intransitive structures, the phase vP does not have a specifier because it does not have an external thematic argument whereas in transitive constructions the vP has. Concerning case assignment, the phase vP merges with an abstract tense af (fix) on the head T, which agrees with and assigns invisible nominative case to the subject wh-word man ‘who’. We assume that the phase head C is the probe and has the Edge feature which attracts the raising of the subject wh-phrase to Spec-CP. Besides, we argue that the light transitive head v has an Edged feature which attracts the raising of the object wh-phrase aish ‘what’ to be the second (outer) specifier of vP. Being the phase head, the v probes for a local goal and finds the object wh-phrase aish; the v agrees with and assigns accusative case to the object wh-phrase aish. As the TP merges with a null interrogative head C, the phase head C has an Edge feature that attracts the raising of the object wh-word aish to Spec-CP for feature valuation. Following this, the null copies of the moved entities left after movement receive a null spellout in the phonological level and, hence, cannot be accessed for any further operation.

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